Loudoun Valley had 63 players in grades 10, 11 and 12 show up for the first day of practice, the most in Coach Mike Barton's tenure at the Purcellville school. Depth is a luxury the Vikings haven't had in the past.

Still, there are several players Loudoun Valley would be hard-pressed to live without--namely, senior running back Ben Cross and senior quarterback Anthony Long. Both are three-year starters and excellent athletes; Long is the fastest player on the team.

The offensive backfield should be a strength, with senior fullback Cory Austin (374 rushing yards, four touchdowns), junior Kevin Culbert and junior Brandon Rasmussen.

"Any time you've got Ben Cross back there, you're in good shape," Barton said. "But we've got to find a way to take some of the pressure off him. We're going to try to get Anthony more involved in the passing game."

Three starters return on the offensive line: seniors Brad Draisey, Steve Dellinger and James Murray. However, Dellinger, who missed virtually all of last season with an injured shoulder, suffered a high ankle sprain in the Vikings' scrimmage against Clarke County Aug. 20. Dellinger will be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

Offense

OG Brad Draisey (6-3, 253, Sr.)--Draisey has been a starter and a first-team all-district lineman since his sophomore year. He is bigger this year--he was listed at 240 last year--but his greater strengths are his footwork and technique.

Other offensive players to watch: RB Ben Cross, Sr.; QB Anthony Long, Sr.; G Steve Dellinger, Sr.; TE Coy Lemmert, Sr.; FB Cory Austin, Sr.; T James Murray, Sr.

Defense

S Anthony Long (6-2, 160, Sr.)--Long was moved to safety after the fifth game of the 1998 season, and it proved a perfect fit. Long runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds, has excellent vision and is a good tackler.

Other defensive players to watch: T Brad Draisey, Sr.; LB Sam Wilkinson, Jr.; LB B.J. Strother, Jr.; OLB Cory Austin, Sr.

* District/Division: Group AA Northwestern/Division 4.

* Coach: Mike Barton, 23rd season.

* Last year's record: 5-5 overall, 4-3 district.

* Most recent playoff appearance: 1997.

* Starters returning (offense/defense): 6/5.

1999 Schedule

Sept. 3

at Loudoun County, 7:30

Sept. 10

Jefferson County (W. Va.), 7:30

Sept. 17

at Hedgesville (W. Va.), 7:30

Sept. 24

Handley, 7:30

Oct. 1

at Liberty, 7:30

Oct. 8

Potomac Falls, 1:30

Oct. 15

at Broad Run, 7:30

Oct. 22

at Park View, 7:30

Oct. 30

Warren County, 1:30

Nov. 5

Loudoun County, 7:30

1998 Results

0 Loudoun County 31

14 at Jefferson County (W. Va.) 24

39 Clarke County 7

0 at Handley 34

14 Liberty 26

30 at Fauquier 10

10 Sherando 14

17 James Wood 0

35 at Warren County 14

21 at Loudoun County 16

CAPTION: Quarterback Anthony Long also excels at safety, where he can put his 4.4-second speed in 40-yard dash, solid tackling to good use.